Posted in Attitude, Design, freelance life, Personal Life, Psychology

Managing Expectations as a Freelance Graphic Designer (or Humans in General)

All of us have an internal expectation of ourselves and others. It’s really important to not only be aware of our expectations of ourselves and others – but to manage those expectations. We have to compare that to the reality of the situation and also leave room for grace, because we’re all just human with the best intentions (usually). I believe the benefit of the doubt can go a long way. People tend to live up (or down) to our expectations of them.

When I first start working with someone, I try to be very clear of what I’m expecting of them and ask questions to find out what their expectations are of me. Usually it goes something like, “Since the logo is the most important thing to you and what we’ll use to build everything else off of, I’ll start working on that first and send you a draft of a couple options by Tuesday.” They know what they’ll get, why they’re getting it first, and when they’ll get it. That also leaves room for them to correct me if that isn’t the most important element or if they need it sooner or later.

Following the ‘take care of the customer first’ rule, after I let them know what their part is, I let them know what I need from them. I need very honest and specific feedback. I tell them what kind of feedback I need and how to give it. Feedback in person, video, or over the phone is best since I work intuitively and it’s easy for me to pick up subtle cues that way. If they don’t like a concept, just say, “I don’t like #4” and move on. When I hear too many details about something they don’t like, I start focusing on those details rather than on what they do want – especially if there’s more details about that one than the one they like. When they like something, I want to know everything. The colors, the shape, the feel, as many details as possible so that I can build on that to make something greater.

I set a foundation of work habits in the beginning. I protect my weekends so I can take a break or work on my personal projects. Letting people know the foundation of my schedule up front (No weekends, Calls and interaction Monday – Friday 8AM – 4PM EST unless we schedule something specifically outside those hours) makes things run a lot smoother in the long run.

This has been a pretty painful process to learn. In the beginning, I gave all my power away to the client and left it completely open. That really shuts down the dialogue and instantly gives off the message of “I am your slave and have nothing else important going on.” It’s also a huge cop out of responsibility. If you’re freelancing and in charge of your own business, YOU have to be in charge of it. Letting a client determine your hours is a huge responsibility for them. Not to mention, really unfair since when you start feeling taken advantage of (and you will) you will start to blame them even though you put them in that position.

Once I realized this a few years ago (and am continually working on it), I was VERY clunky about how to voice my boundaries with people.

***Personal Experience Rambley Time — 
My first guinea pig was with a client I had been working with for 2 years or so. I had been feeling ‘off’ about our work relationship since the beginning – The work wasn’t my style, I didn’t enjoy it in the slightest and wasn’t proud of the work I was producing, it took forever for things to go through committees but he paid extremely well and I had some knowledge of his products. I eventually couldn’t take it anymore and we had a phone conversation. I ended up telling him I just didn’t feel right about the work I was doing and it made me feel … icky. <- Yes, I actually said that to a client. No ragrets.

He was actually far more understanding than I ever imagined.  I finished the part of the project we were working on and handed off the work I had done and all the source files so the next designer he found would have what they needed.  No bridges were burned and and he still referred me to people afterwards. <- I was most surprised about that! He sincerely liked my work and liked working with me.
I learned two things from this experience : 1. Give people room to be understanding. and 2. People will respect you more when you respect yourself.
End Ramble—***

I was so afraid I was going to say the wrong thing, completely burn bridges, destroy my reputation, cause the other person to have a lot of trouble, and in general be the villain in the story.  But the reality was, when I had that conversation with people I had already been working with – they were completely understanding, empathetic, and even encouraging. In general, I believe people don’t want to take advantage of you. They care just as much about their reputation as you do yours – they just need your input to let them know what you’re expecting of them. Nobody can read minds! Until you learn how to voice your own standards, you’ll continue to feel used and abused. If you’re too afraid to do that, accept the responsibility and realize that’s what you have to put up with until you’re ready to face your own insecurity.

The same philosophy applies to all relationships. If you don’t set clear boundaries in the beginning, it can really come back to bite you later on. Even if you realize this later on in the relationship, it’s still possible to start setting boundaries ASAP. It’s just much more difficult since you and the other person both have preconceived ideas of the interactions – that means you need to be extremely consistent, which is a lot of pressure.  But in the end, it’s the same concept. It’s enough work for one person to take responsibility of their own actions, it’s not fair to expect others to ‘just know’ what you need and how to interact with you.

Once you’re aware, it’s up to you to tell them what you’re thinking (because no, they don’t “just know”), you have two choices. A.) Choose to keep feeling like the victim (which means you’re giving up your right to complain about it since you know how to fix it!) or B.) speak up and risk being all those horror stories you’re telling yourself coming true (usually they won’t, but if they did – is it really the end of the world?).  It’s very uncomfortable if you’re not used to standing up for yourself, but very temporary.

This small change can catapult you into an entire new mindset about your beliefs of yourself and other people. It’s well worth building your character to get out of that victim state of mind. Take your power back! 

Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology

Information Overload

The internet is too big sometimes.

There’s about a million articles on how to grow your business, how to market yourself, what to do and how to do it and when to do it and who to do it for or with and why you should do it a certain way.

It’s a bit overwhelming to say the least! Not to mention developing the actual craft of doing whatever it is you’re doing, especially anything digital. There’s  updates and changing trends, tips and trips, and just plain ol’ honing your craft.

Maybe it’s because everyone around me is in ‘Spring Cleaning’ mode, but I feel like I need to de-clutter my mind. And in the future, be more mindful of the information I pay attention to and trust.
Lately, I feel like my mind is too crowded with so much ‘guidance’, it’s difficult to hear my own thoughts and ideas. This is NOT a good place to be in as a designer since the goal is to create new things, new ideas and are expected to make unique connections.  It’s pretty much impossible to do that if those new thoughts and ideas always have to pass through a checkpoint of what the ‘rules’ say about it or what am I ‘supposed’ to do.

I’m pretty fed up with it.

So, I’ve decided to devote the month of April to tuning out all the chatter and tuning in to my own inner voice. How you ask? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not going to post a bulleted list out of pure spite and rebellion. 

Already, I can hear the inner protest:
“But the only way you can learn is to do what others do!”
“You need to seek out, hear and take advice all the advice you can get! Otherwise you’ll grow arrogant and egotistical!”
“Why don’t you think you need guidance? Do you know everything already?!” 

There’s a time and a place, friend. Only doing what others have done, doing what you’re told, doing what you have to, and following other’s advice only gets you so far. And, if that’s all you do, you become hollow with no real substance. Right now, I feel like a hollow shell lined with should do’s and need to’s without a real reliable inner source to connect everything.

I guess you just have to start somewhere and run with it until you can hear yourself again. 

The terrible irony about this post is it was inspired by The Honest Designer’s Show podcast hahahaha One of the hosts threw out the phrase, “Upgrade Yourself.” and my mind couldn’t let go of that thought. It’s time I upgrade myself – which means getting rid of the stuff holding me back.
Maybe that’s the trick – pay attention to the information that inspires you, not the kind that scolds you.
Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

A Long Road Ahead

It’s all too easy to forget how far we’ve come when we’re striving for something.
It’s even EASIER to do that when there’s no hard and steady target at the end.

I’m a big believer in the milestone and accumulative goal strategy. Like a lot of people, it’s very difficult for me to visualize what my ‘ultimate goal’ looks like, or even to verbalize. How in the world do you visualize something that doesn’t exist yet? 

I’ve never been the first in my class in anything. In fact, I was much more likely to be the kid who had to stay in on lunch, afterschool, and staying up late trying to finish a project so I could get a barely passing grade. I’m very familiar with failure and all the disillusion it brings. 
And I’m somewhat grateful for it. It’s the reason why I’m experience oriented and can appreciate the lows just as much as the highs. I always have fun along the way.

With the New Year fast approaching and resolutions spreading like wild-fire, I feel pressured to nail down some goals and reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far. I started thinking about this a few days ago when I read this post from a very insightful blog I read. Up until very recently, I haven’t been results driven at all. A results driven mindset is something I’m aiming for in 2018. I’m not thinking of it as a ‘new’ mindset, more like a complimentary one to my experience driven mind.

A Results mind is a puzzle – An Experience Mind is a freehand drawing.

When drawing or learning any new craft (or really anywhere in life) – the best way to learn is to be curious, try different things, copy, and make lots and lots of mistakes along the way. This is where I feel like I’ve been for the past several years – and now it feels like the time to put those pieces together. ...and still keep the curiosity alive.

I usually takes the slow route to something, inspecting and dissecting a thing from every angle before putting it to use. I love processing an idea until it’s mush. In a way, I almost dread actually achieving a goal because that’s the end of analysis – what if I’ve overlooked something? What if I didn’t understand something thoroughly enough? What if I missed a connection? These are the haunting thoughts I have to fight with faith that I’ll be enlightened along the way even after it’s over.

I’ve progressed quite a ways in design since the beginning – definitely not any where close to being at the ‘top of the class’, but enough so that I’m proud of myself and confident in my skills and even more than that – my ability to learn and keep learning. 

Lessons of 2017: 
  • Dedicated more time into hard skills like drawing and writing
  • Better organized myself and my projects using Trello and Wunderlist
  • Strengthened my skills in InDesign (aka – my ‘spider’ of design software)
  • Strengthened my speaking skills by doing a slew of Live Streams on facebook
  • Teamed up with a webdesigner friend to develop my website
  • Explored being a Project Manager for a Print Company 
  • Earned Around $8,000 via UpWork, LinkedIn, and Personal Outreach
  • Developed a personal fun project to keep myself motivated for all the boring projects that pay bills
  • Connected (and kept connections) with more people in my field
  • Developed stronger connection with family and friends thanks to my live streams, Glide, and reaching out

Goals for 2018: 
  • Adopt schedules and set/meet deadlines
  • More TBA on Friday 😉
Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Notevember 2 – Goal Setting

I have the lifelong habit of biting off more than I can chew. Mom’s gentle warning “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!” was foreshadowing for the rest of my life – my ambition is more than I can physically handle. 

So, what then? Do I lower my sights? How can I make things manageable enough to actually complete?

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” My sister said as she was helping me with my multiplication tables – this entire scene feels significant. Like a dream chock full of subtle clues about my future.

The theme of setting small goals to accomplish big things has been a constant in my life – however, I’ve never liked this way of doing things. In fact, I’ve stubbornly resisted this method with every ounce of my being – but, it seems to be just as stubborn as I am because it keeps reappearing.

In school, I had a ‘goal card’ I had to make fresh with new daily and weekly tasks to accomplish a long term goal. The start of each day was to evaluate what was done yesterday and was the aim was for the day in context of what needed to be done that week – month – year.
The stinging irony of my schoolbooks being named “PACE” isn’t lost on me either. 

But, that’s all so dreadfully boring and unmagical if you plan things to happen and then they happen. It’s always more exciting if things just serendipitously fall together!

This is a prime example of having the answer screaming at you and trying to find ‘another‘ answer because you don’t like the truth. “I don’t know” starts out as an excuse, and then with maturity, becomes a blatant lie to yourself.

I realized that I’ve been looking at it from an all or nothing mindset – It’s either routine or spontaneity – not both. But this isn’t true at all. In fact, my love of winging it can be incorporated when things can’t go as planned. Maybe, the solution is in the problem.

So here we go again, with the daily/weekly/yearly goals – but with an attitude adjustment and foresight of how to deal with the boringness of it all.

Goal for today : Make daily / weekly / yearly goals for next post

Posted in Design, Uncategorized

Votes are in!

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who helped me by voting for which design you liked best!

Voting Stats: 
A = 22
B = 9
C = 6
D = 11
E = 5
Using of everyone’s input, I made a few revisions and believe I have a MUCH stronger design than any of the previous ones. Here’s the breakdown:
A + D : These two were most liked by those who voted, and many people couldn’t decide between the two. I’m not exactly sure why since they don’t look similar at all, but that’s what happened.
Equally appealing to men and women
B : Many people liked how bold and clean this design is – but the white space seemed to confuse people.
Only men preferred this one
C : People liked this one for the same reason as B, because it was bold and clean.
More men Preferred this one
E : The least liked of all, which I expected. One person asked to see what it looked like without the border, and it looked like a squashed spider! D: Which I do NOT promote!! I’m glad she asked for that though, otherwise I might not have realized it until too late.
Only women preferred this one

Other Insights: 

I got a TON of feedback from some people I didn’t know paid that much attention to my feed. Some people I haven’t talked to in quite some time and it was a good way to reconnect. ❤
My goal is to make a design that’s attractive to either gender. Mainly because I love making T-shirt designs and I want either gender to be able to wear a shirt with this logo on it and feel cool about it. With the geometric framed ideas, I was thinking they would make cool necklaces, but … but I’m not really committed to making that happen so, not a big factor, that was just the thought behind it.
I had no idea how many people really loved my hh design of my current logo! I was really surprised when people started suggesting I put it on the designs that didn’t have it. This was a Huge encouragement so thank you for that. 🙂

More About the logo: 

Everything about all of these designs means something.
I had two perspectives to view the spider from : in a Web and Facing Forward
I chose a hexagon because this ties into my photography business Honeycomb Images which I’m trying to mesh into this somehow without it being too abrupt. It also made a nice ‘web’ shape and gave the spider placement. Also, it’s a cool way to show radial symmetry and reflection. Since a lot of my art is geometric, it tied into that too.
A spider facing forward at eye level was important to me because this is how I try to face problems (‘try’ is the keyword there!). Spiders are usually viewed from above because we’re so much bigger than they are, but still they can make grown men scream like little girls.
It’s highly beneficial for our own sake’s and those around us to take a direct look at exactly what scares us and try to figure out why…and then see if we can turn it around for our benefit.
In one way, spiders represent the small fears and habits that either make or break our lives. They can be a nuisance, a terror, or ideally – the thing that keeps all the other pests away. Details and small things matter in the grand scheme of things. The devil’s in the details. Big, amazing things that happen are great, but it’s the little, daily habits that can really improve quality of life.

I’ve revised and narrowed it down to 4 designs. The voting last time proved that all those designs were good since they all got at least one vote 😉 I’m pretty confident that any of these would nail it …. but which one?

Which one do you think is best and why?

hh_Trials_revise

Posted in Attitude

Experience Vs. Money

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” – The Joker & Business Advisers everywhere
This has been long standing advice for freelancers especially.  The problem with this advice is that if you really want to do something – chances are you’ll lower your price so that you can do that thing.
 
So which is really more valuable? The money or the experience?
Obviously the “right” answer is always the experience. But what about the practical side of things? Is it wise to lower your price and your value to get fun jobs? Or is this foolish generosity?
The answer is somewhere in between. Doing those fun jobs for less money will always help you develop your skills, provide more quality substance for your portfolio, and keep the fires burning. In my mind, these jobs are more of an investment.
In a world of quick fixes, I feel like I’m going against the grain quite a bit with this philosophy. But for me, trusting my gut is more important (and more reliable) than numbers.
Posted in Personal Life

Interview with Myself

Xanga, LiveJournal, chatrooms, blogs, forums – I used to be heavily involved in social media and didn’t think too much about what I was putting out there, but it was easy and passionate and awesome. …at the time anyway.

It’s been about 8 years or so since I’ve had any kind of consistent blog, so bare with me. I think the easiest way for me to start is with an interview with myself:

Q: Holly, why in the world do you want to blog again? 

A: Initially to network and connect with people. Most of my clients I rarely meet in person and maybe this is a good way to personify myself  to others a little bit better than just an email address.

Q: Why did you think a blog would help you with that? 

A: My longest standing ever so patient client David Deeble told me it was a good idea to have a blog – he’s the most successful juggler/comedian I’ve ever known or heard of so it seems like sound advice. (…ok, so I don’t know that many juggler/comedians – beside the point.)

Q: Why are you a Graphic Designer? 

A: I love colors, fonts, and shapes. Lines, contrast, hues, tones, alignment, composition, grids, asymmetry – it’s all pretty magical to me. I’ve tended to fall in place for those people that don’t find it so magical or just don’t have time for it. It’s the perfect balance of contribution and creative outlet for me.

Q: What do you want people to know about you? 

A: I really enjoy people. I see myself as a superhero. I’m a bit mystical, a bit beatnik, and a bit overly idealist. I’m kindof a Gypsy/Joplin/Poppins mix.

Q: A superhero. Right. All superhero’s have a weakness, what’s your cryptonite? 

A: Time. I don’t understand time at all. It’s one time one place in the world and a completely different time in another place?! What is that wizardry? Don’t even get me started on Daylight Savings Time. Or anything with numbers really- Brian, my husband takes care of the financial side because numbers are just shapes to me. I’m fully aware of my shortcomings and where I need to improve (see above). The biggest obstacle by far is time management. Thanks to working with one of my best clients, Rick Lewis (motivational speaker/entertainer), I learned the most effective way to overcome this is to just start immediately and don’t stop until I have something to send. That takes extreme discipline.

Q: What will we be reading about in your blog? 

A: Mostly how I work to improve my work methods and myself. I will try just about anything to get myself out of a rut – usually saving the most obvious simple solution for last, because I see myself as just a life sized test subject. I’ll most likely be blogging about how to balance life and work when it’s all muddled together. Ulterior motive: Sometimes I get stuck in a project and don’t know where to go with it, then I get stuck in paralysis for a few days in anxiety ridden terror that I suck at what I’m doing. Writing comes pretty easy to me, so I’m hoping if I have something ‘easy’ to update, it will give me some momentum when I’m stuck in the mud.

Q: Will there be pictures? Sometime I don’t feel like reading.

A: YES! Even though I’m well typed and don’t need spell check too often, one of my goals is to create visuals without words where people just “get  it”. Possibly some poetry, scrap art, things like that.

Q: Anything else? 

A: I’d like to throw this out there – a big Thank You to my parents who’ve always supported me, even when I didn’t know it. Both of them encouraged me to develop creative outlets and go with my own inspiration (which, probably bit them in the butt more than once).

Q: Aww, that’s sweet. But aren’t you forgetting someone? 

A: AND a huge thank you to my husband Brian (who gave me the idea to pursue graphic design in the first place!) and stepdaughter Rachel for supporting me to keep going and keep creating – even when they have to make their own dinner, or I have to skip movie time, or I get grumpy because I’m having trouble figuring something out. Thanks to you both for your patience and encouragement. ❤